The military high command has distanced troops from the killing of fishermen in Borno State.
AFP had reported how “20 fishermen” were accidentally killed by a military jet.
But in its reaction, the Defence Headquarters said troops only neutralised members of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists who used the thick foliage for cover to carry out their nefarious activities in the Lake Chad region of Borno.
In a statement, acting director, Defence Media Operations, Brig.-Gen. Benard Onyeuko, said the terrorists only disguised as fishermen, with canoes loaded with unidentified items, berthed along the river bank.
He said they were, however, observed not engaging in any fishing activity, but loading their canoes with unidentified items to be ferried to other locations.
The statement read,
“The attention of the Defence Headquarters has been drawn to misguided media reports trending in the social media alleging that OPHK troops killed 20 Fishermen in an Air Strike in Kwatan Daban Masara on Sunday 26 Sep 21, around the Lake Tchad area of North East Nigeria.
“Contrary to the report, the interdiction targeted and neutralised clearly identified ISWAP terrorists and not fishermen. It is thus pertinent to make clarifications on the air interdiction recently conducted in the general area by OPHK.
“Responding to credible Intelligence report on the movement and operation of Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists messed up within the forested area, thorough analysis of the intelligence report was conducted between 19 August and 23 September 2021.
“Special Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaisance (ISR) mission was also carried out, which confirmed the area as the terrorists’ staging area. Further confirmatory reconnaissance revealed that the observed movements and activities were of ISWAP, dressed in the usual ISWAP-styled uniform.”
Onyeuko added that it was very essential to point out that the ban on fishing activities within that axis was still in force.
According to him, troops ensured that civilian settlements were not in any way along the line of fire and strikes in order to prevent collateral damage that may arise in the conduct of the air strikes.